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Chest

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      As you can see here, the chest is a very complex muscle group, with many different heads which require development. A wide variety of movements is required to fully develop all of these heads. The exercises below work together to provide maximum stimulation and development of the entire pectoral complex.

 

 

Flat Bench or Machine Press

 

            The flat bench is the Grand-Daddy of all upper-body mass builders. It heaps slabs of granite onto your pecs as a whole, your delts, and triceps like no other exercise can. Your flat bench, as all exercises, should be performed in a reverse pyramid, so that maximum poundages can be used while your muscles are still fresh. This exercise is done first because it is the heaviest compound movement, and, again, can provide maximum stimulation to all the muscles involved while they are still fresh.

 

            When reverse pyramiding, start with a weight you can handle for 3-6 times for your first set, and descend in increments of approximately 10% of the weight used in your initial set (determine what increments work best for you through trial and error) Your final set should be 12-15 reps at the point of failure.

 

            Ideally, the chest press should be performed on a bi-angular resistance machine, such as the Hammer Strength Chest Press Machine. This maximizes the involvement of the pecs by allowing the hands to descend beyond the chest, providing a more complete stretch and greater range of motion. It also forces the pectorals to contract more fully as the hands move inward rather than straight up or out through the course of the movement. Maximum involvement of the triceps is also insured as the arms can go from a greater degree of flexion beneath the chest to a fully locked position at the completion of the movement. Finally, the weight on a biangular, plate-loaded machine, being situated on a pendulum, moves more outward at the beginning of the movement and more upward at the completion of the exercise, insuring that the resistance is strongest at the peak of the pectoral, deltoid and triceps contractions.

 

            This stretch, as does any stretching movement, serves a threefold purpose.

 

The first thing accomplished by stretching is that it pulls each head of the muscle taut toward its own origin, pronouncing separation between the two muscle heads and adding to the individual mass of each.

 

The second purpose of stretching is that each muscle head is encased in a micro-thin membrane called the fascia. This fascia is molecularly harder than diamond yet more elastic than the most finely tempered steel. When it is stretched the boundaries within which your muscle has to grow are expanded.

 

Finally, stretching extends your negative rep to the maximum possible degree. The further the same weight travels through a negative repetition, the greater impact it will have on developing mass. 

 

 

            If you perform this movement on a biangular resistance machine, you should only descend until your hands are even with your chest on your first set or two. This will allow your muscles to receive more stimulation through the strongest portion of their range of movement. Thus you can perform more positive and negative reps with your heaviest poundages, facilitating the maximum possible degree of muscle growth.

 

            On your heaviest sets you should also make your positive reps more explosive, but always keep your negatives slow and strict. As you lighten the weight for your subsequent sets you should extend your range of motion to a full stretch and slow your positive reps as well as your negatives.

 

            If you are doing your flat benches with a bar, you will get your best mass gains by positioning your hands so that your elbows are bent to a 90 degree angle when the bar touches your chest. If you wish to extend your range of motion on your lighter sets you may substitute dumbbell presses for barbell presses after your heaviest sets.

 

            Some bodybuilders have difficulty adequately involving their pecs if performing their flat-bench presses with a barbell. This can be overcome by pre-fatiguing the pecs with heavy dumbbell flyes prior to the first set of flat-benches.

 

            Remember that you are attempting to build mass. Therefore these flyes should be done as a mass movement and not a shaping movement. This means starting heavy and doing a reverse pyramid just as you would for a compound movement.

 

            All movements should be preceded by a good warm-up set, but flyes in particular. The extreme stress flyes place on the pecs make lifters extremely susceptible to pec—tears if a proper warm-up is neglected. The warm-up should be performed with a very light weight for 15-20 reps.

 

            Each set of flyes should be extended beyond failure. This should be done by immediately continuing to bench press the dumbbells when you can no longer perform a positive flye. When you lower the weights after pressing them, continue to perform NEGATIVE FLYES before pressing the dumbbells again.

 

            Following your flyes your bench presses should thrash your pecs like never before.

 

                                               

 

                                                Incline Press

 

            The incline press is the primary mass builder for the upper pecs, but also imparts a tremendous amount of mass to the tris and delts. Like the flat press, it is also best performed on a biangular resistance machine, such as the Hammer Strength Incline Press, to allow a greater contraction of the upper pecs as the hands move both upward and inward at the same time.

 

            Again, you should follow the reverse pyramid scheme, exploding the weight upward and performing slow strict negatives on your heaviest sets. On your lighter sets you should again slow the positive reps as well as the negatives.

 

            If you are performing the incline press with a bar, your chest should already have been sufficiently exhausted from your flat-press exhaustion that further pre-exhaustion is not necessary.

 

            Because your torso is inclined but your elbows still descend toward the floor you should get a much better pec stretch with the incline barbell press than you do using a barbell for the flat bench.

 

            If, however, you still wish to extend your range of motion and work on a biangular plane, dumbbell presses may be substituted for your lighter sets of barbell incline presses.

 

 

                                                Dips  

 

 

            Dips are the best mass builder for the lower pecs. They may be done using either your own bodyweight or a machine. As with bench presses, the first set of dips should be performed at a 90 degree angle to allow for more weight and compound mass building.

 

All subsequent sets should be performed with the weight being slowly lowered to a full stretch of the pectorals. This stretch, as does any stretching movement, serves a threefold purpose.

 

The first thing accomplished by stretching is that it pulls each head of the muscle taut toward its own origin, pronouncing separation between the two muscle heads and adding to the individual mass of each.

 

The second purpose of stretching is that each muscle head is encased in a micro-thin membrane called the fascia. This fascia is molecularly harder than diamond yet more elastic than the most finely tempered steel. When it is stretched the boundaries within which your muscle has to grow are expanded.

 

Finally, stretching extends your negative rep to the maximum possible degree. The further the same weight travels through a negative repetition, the greater impact it will have on developing mass. 

 

Many top bodybuilders, including Arnold, also claim that a good, full stretch of the pecs when doing dips also expands the ribcage, further adding to the girth of the chest.

           

            When you do your dips on your chest day you should lean slightly forward. This will target the pectoral muscles more effectively.

 

            If you are doing dips with your bodyweight and can do more then 6 reps with your arms bent 90 degrees you should weight yourself until you can do 4-6 reps bending your arms to 90 degrees. Following this you should reduce the weight until you can do 7-9 reps descending to a complete stretch of the pectoral muscles, continuing to reduce the weight as in any other reverse pyramid.

 

 

                                                Flyes or Pec-Dec

 

            The Pec-Deck is probably the best all-around stretching movement you can do for your chest. This is because it combines the stretch provided by dumbbell flyes with the complete contraction achievable through cable flyes (also known as lying crossovers)

 

            Each of the three movements (Pec Deck, Dumbbell Flyes and Cable Flyes) has its own advantages and should be periodically incorporated into your routine.

 

            While the Pec Deck gives a fairly complete stretch, dumbbell flyes give a more complete stretch. While it offers a full contraction, the contraction achievable from cable flyes is even more pronounced.

 

            If you are using a bi-angular pressing machine for your flat-presses, you are probably getting enough of a pec-stretch from your chest presses that the stretch attained from the Pec-Deck is more than adequate. If you are benching with a bar you may wish to incorporate flyes to assure that your pecs get the maximum possible stretch and produce the maximum possible gains.

 

            If you choose to do flyes, your best results will come from a combination of dumbbell and cable flyes. Start with the dumbbell flyes. This will allow you to experience the greatest possible stretch with the heaviest possible weight.

 

            Keeping your elbows very slightly bent, lower the weight as far as you can, until the stretch is painful but not injurious. Slowly bring the weight up, stopping as your arms are about 16” apart and flexing your pecs as fully as you can to maximize the contraction before lowering the weight. Raising the dumbbells beyond this point will do no good as your arms will already be almost straight and there will be virtually no resistance. Again, you are doing this as a mass building exercise so you will want to begin with a weight that you can only do for 6-8 reps. Do one more set, dropping to a weight that you can handle for 10-12 reps. You may again extend each set by doing a few more reps of presses with the same dumbbells after you reach failure, and continue to do negative flyes.

 

            Proceed immediately to the lying crossover. Stretch as much as you can as you lower the cables. As you raise your hands, bring them all the way across your chest as far as you can and squeezing tightly as though giving a bear-hug. Exaggerate the contraction of your pecs and hold it for a moment before doing your negative rep again. Alternate crossing right over left and left over right to assure balanced development.

Begin with a weight that you can do for 8-10 reps, followed by a weight that you can do for 12-15 reps.

 

 

                                                Trey Crossovers

 

            This is an exercise of my own invention, and has blasted my upper pecs like nothing I have ever seen. I began experimenting with this exercise about 8 months ago in an attempt to bring up my lagging upper pecs.

 

            Now they are anything but lagging. After eight months of keeping these in my routine, I can balance not only a glass of water on my flexed upper pec, but A WHOLE PITCHER (without leaning backward)

 

            Begin by lowering the crossover handles to the lowest level. Take the handles in an underhand grip. Raise your hands as though doing a crossover, but almost straight up and down, so that they cross in front of your head. As you raise your hands, bring them all the way across your head as far as you can and squeeze tightly as though giving a bear-hug. Exaggerate the contraction of your upper pecs and hold it for a moment before doing your negative rep again. Alternate crossing right over left and left over right to assure balanced development. Do a three set reverse pyramid for this exercise.

 

            To extend the set and build further mass, begin doing shoulder presses with the cables upon positive failure, but continue to cross your arms over rather than bringing them straight up. Continue to extend your arms and lower them to your sides for your negative reps.

 

 

                                                Overhand Crossovers  

 

            These traditional crossovers are great for flexing the entire pectoral complex, but emphasize the lower and middle pecs. They also help involve the serratus anterior. They should also be done with a three-set descending pyramid.

 

            Begin with the cables in the highest position. Walk forward and allow your arms to get pulled slightly back by the weight so you can feel a good stretch.

 

            As you lower your hands, bring them all the way across your abdomen as far as you can and squeeze tightly as though giving a bear-hug. Exaggerate the contraction of your pecs and hold it for a moment before doing your negative rep. Alternate crossing right over left and left over right to assure balanced development.

 

            These sets may be extended by throwing your weight forward to assist the weight in moving upon failure. These cheat reps will also help work your abs. You may not get a full contraction on your last few reps, but it is still better to continue the resistance with partial contractions than to stop your intensity. Continue to do good, slow, strict, controlled negatives.

 

 

                                                Close-Grip Bench Presses

 

            These should be relatively self-explanatory. They may be performed with either a barbell or a biangular pressing machine such as the Hammer Strength Chest press. The purpose of these is to work the chest as a whole one last time after each part has been worked individually, and to allow indirect training of the shoulders and triceps again. A three set reverse pyramid is recommended.